The practice of sharing music over the internet has been the subject of hot debate in recent years. Currently, people from all over the world can seamlessly stream entire music collections to one another with little or no cause for concern of repercussion. While this may seem like a good thing, as anything free always does, the downside is that the financial blows that the recording industry sustains from illegal file sharing can effectively limit the amount of music being produced in the future.
Whereas before the widespread popularity of the World Wide Web had shaped our lives in such a manner that sharing pictures, movies, music and files were common place, there still existed the technology that enabled people to share their music. For those that can actually remember cassette tapes, there was no technology put into place that would keep friends from popping a cassette tape of an artist’s music into one tape deck and a blank cassette tape into another and simply pressing “Play” and “Record” simultaneously. Even the advent of CDs didn’t keep the recording industry safe from copyright infringement once household CD burners were available on the market. The difference between these forms of copying and the act of file sharing on the internet is the matter of availability. Before people were able to log on to the internet to find their favorite music, they had to know someone that had bought the album in which to copy. In essence, they were limited to the albums that their friends had already purchased. With modern music downloading over the internet, the amount of files copied and distributed reach millions of separate computers over file sharing networks. The result is that it would only take one copy of an album to be uploaded for virtually millions of people to download.
The record companies have made every attempt possible to fight back against what they have since labeled “music piracy.” These companies have utilized the consortium they created back in 1952, the RIAA, to fight what they believe is copyright infringement in any manner that they can legally see fit. The RIAA has claimed that internet file sharing of copyrighted music material has resulted in a $4.2 billion dollar per year loss for record companies, recording artists and other music industry-related entities. While the recording industries are in their rights to pursue legal action against people that are actually guilty of file-sharing, many have accused the RIAA of vilifying and falsely accusing people of illegal file sharing due to false information. Some of the more questionable recipients of law suits from the RIAA are people that have no computers and never have, elderly grandmothers, the mentally handicapped, and children under the age of twelve. It has also been pointed out that the RIAA uses bullying strong arm tactics in order to pressure even innocent people into paying thousands of dollars in fines to them in lieu of taking on an expensive and drawn-out court case.
The issue of internet file sharing continues to rage and there is currently no realistic hope of settlement in sight. Peer-to-peer networks continue to proliferate all over the Web, seeming to thrive on the controversy that the issue has raised rather than shrink from it. Some technical advances have helped to stem the tide in some ways but have almost always been proven to be thwarted by enterprising individuals that are proponents of open file sharing. In order to effectively solve the issue, it will most likely take government intervention as well as strict technological controls on all future music produced on digital media.
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